October 3, 2023

Apache Chief Ray Olarte asked for my “take” on the criminal case against Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo and Ney Altadero for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
On Oct. 8, 2022, a buy-bust operation was conducted. Onsite was 990 kilograms of crystal meth, locally called shabu, worth P6.7 billion in Mayo’s WPD Lending Office in Tondo, Manila.
Sidebar: This piece is purely an academic discussion with no intent to violate the sub-judice rule. Also, some of the key players, namely Rep. Acop, B/Gen. Domingo, and Col. Gonzales, and other operatives have common roots as they come from Benguet, per a general-friend.
My two cents worth: The irregularities in the buy-bust operations, chain-of-custody flaws, and lack of third-party-witnesses made for a weak case leading to a possible acquittal.
“Confuse the enemy!” Capt. Sosongco was the one who arrested Mayo, but it was Capt. Piñon (no part in the pre-operation planning) who was named as the arresting officer. Both were team leaders of the Special Operations Unit of the Calabarzon Police Regional Office (SOU4-A) operating out of their jurisdiction in Manila. Also, the five-man team of Sosongco denied his claim.
Then Col. Gonzales, assigned in Quezon City was at the scene, and Col. Ybañez, alleged boss of Mayo, created a scenario of going after a bigger warehouse in Pasig, which turned out to be a “dud” as the operation was a service of a warrant, with Mayo recorded as the hero arresting officer.
Then the Philippine National Police chief called off the operation when he realized Mayo’s life was in danger and he might be killed in the follow-up operation. Indeed, a huge cover-up by the police in the making.
Then the law requires at least three persons to be present during the physical inventory and photographing the person/s from whom the items were seized: an elected public official (after 5 p.m. dumating); and a representative of the Prosecution Service or a mediaman. Mayo was inside a car all the time and could not be considered present during the inventory. Of course, I would not know if a fiscal or mediaman was present as my knowledge purely relied on newsreports.
In People v. Que, the SC said the presence of third party witnesses is imperative, not only during the physical inventory and taking of pictures, but also during the actual seizure of items.
The requirement of conducting the inventory and taking of photographs “immediately after seizure and confiscation” necessarily means that the required witnesses must also be present during the seizure or confiscation.
This was affirmed in People v. Mendoza, where the presence of these witnesses was characterized as an “insulating presence (against) the evils of switching, planting or contamination.” This was again lacking in the Mayo case.
If any of the required witnesses were absent, the operatives should present a justifiable reason or at the very least by showing that genuine and sufficient efforts were exerted by the apprehending officers to secure their presence. It must be declared in a sworn statement or affidavit, however, and not just noted in the inventory. Again, none in Mayo.
The SC has sternly issued a reminder that there must be proof “with certitude” showing that the illegal drugs seized in buy-bust operations are “exactly the same substance” presented. In this case, Sgt. Rebosora admitted keeping (and returning) 30 kilograms. Total missing daw is 380-kg. of shabu.
In People v. Nandi, it specified four elements: the seizure and marking, if practicable of the illegal drug recovered; the turnover of the illegal drugs seized to the investigator; the turnover by the investigator to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and the turnover of the marked illegal drug seized to the court (People v. Holgado). With the missing 380-kg. of shabu, there could have been no proper turnover as required.
The failure of the lawmen to comply with the requirements of law negated the integrity and credibility of the seizure and confiscation of the tons of shabu. The evidence of the corpus delicti was “wanting.” The flagrant lapses adversely affected the trustworthiness of the case filed.
It may be “divine intervention” that a scandal hit the PNP. Now is a chance to weed out the bad eggs in the force. There are inconsistencies in the arrest of Mayo and the possibi-lity that the seized shabu was about to be recycled and covered up. At the end of the day, the unanswered mystery is who is Mayo’s boss?
Your wish is my command, chief Ray.